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What We Learned: Michigan Wolverines 78, UCLA Bruins 69

What can we takeaway from Michigan’s win over UCLA at home on Saturday?

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday afternoon, UCLA travelled to Ann Arbor to battle the Wolverines in what was the second of a home-and-home series. Last year’s game was an offensive shootout in Los Angeles where Lonzo Ball propelled the Bruins.

While this year’s matchup had some nice plays as well, it was a much lower scoring affair, where both teams struggled from deep. In fact, both teams were shooting well below 30 percent from three through the first half. However, Michigan took over late in the second half to force overtime and grabbed a 78-69 win.

Let's see what we learned from the game.

What We Learned

1. Michigan Performs Based On How Charles Matthews Plays.

Look, we all know that every team depends on a number of players to get the job done. However, nobody appears to be more important for this year’s Michigan team than Charles Matthews. The team’s play seems to hinge entirely on what he does on a nightly basis. That’s an interesting spot to be in for the Wolverines.

During Saturday’s game, Michigan came alive when Matthews stepped up in the second half. Until he started driving the basket and finding open teammates, Michigan’s offense struggled to become productive. Matthews ended up finishing with 20 points and eight rebounds.

Michigan will have to hope the good Matthews shows up going forward.

2. The Free Throw Shooting Is Becoming A Concern.

For much of Beilein’s tenure, Michigan has been one of the nation’s best shooting teams. Not only from the floor, but also from the charity stripe. During the 2016-’17 season, Michigan finished ninth nationally in free throw percentage.

But this season, that hasn’t been the case.

Not only is Michigan struggling from the line, but the Wolverines have been one of the nation’s worst teams from the free throw line. Michigan entered Saturday’s game ranked 291st nationally and it didn’t improve much from there. In fact, the team shot a dreadful 8-for-22 on the afternoon.

Maybe this is just a rough start, but Michigan continues to leave easy points on the floor with its poor free throw shooting. In fact, one can make a decent argument that Michigan would have won the LSU and UCLA games, had it done just a bit better on the free throw line. That’s a frustrating trend and something that needs to improve.

3. Some Of The Pressure Is Now Off The Wolverines.

Heading into Saturday’s game with UCLA, Michigan was sitting at 7-3 overall with just two of its wins against top 100 opponents and none against top 75 opponents. A loss to UCLA would have given Michigan virtually no margin for error through the remainder of non-conference play.

However, with Saturday’s win over the Bruins, Michigan now sits at 8-3 overall and has what appears to be a nice win for its resume. UCLA was ranked heading into the matchup and had two top 100 wins itself. They weren’t Duke, but they should be a team good enough to boost Michigan’s RPI as the season unfolds.

As I say routinely on this site, don’t underestimate wins like this one for Michigan. They add up over the course of a season and are vital on Selection Sunday.

Overall

There’s little debating that Michigan still has some work to do going forward. But for a remarkable second half comeback, the team could have easily lost to UCLA. Nonetheless, Michigan got a nice resume win and can continue to improve.

Michigan’s season will continue on Tuesday with a road trip to play a talented Texas team. That figures to be a huge opportunity for the Wolverines.